Too many people dismiss Freud because he had a few controversial ideas, but I try to point out that many of Freud’s ideas were very influential and can, with a little attention, be seen in everyday life.
Click the image below to see a concept map of the defense mechanisms discussed in this episode.
Here are my show notes for this episode:
NOTE: I want to thank listener Allen Esterson for helping to improve the accuracy of the information in this podcast. While I retain here a typical definition and example for repression (holocaust victims), Dr. Esterson points out that Freud’s concept of repression is highly controversial and that there is good argument and evidence to suggest that we do not repress memories and that victims of the holocaust have not repressed their memories of their experiences. For more in-depth information on this topic, he recommends reading Erdelyi, M.H. (2006). The Unified Theory of Repression, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29, 499-551, and the work of Richard McNally.
- Repression. Blocking a threatening idea, memory, or emotion from consciousness.
- Reaction formation. Transforming anxiety-producing thoughts into their opposites in consciousness.
- Regression. Returning to more primitive levels of behavior in defense against anxiety or frustration.
- Rationalization. Justifying one’s behavior or failures by plausible or socially acceptable reasons in place of the real reason.
- Denial. Refusing to admit that something unpleasant is happening, or that a taboo emotion in being experienced. Note: Denial distorts the way you perceive events (“I am NOT angry at you”) repression blocks or distorts your memory of events (the so-called “repressed memories” in which a person was molested but up to this point had no memory of it).
- Displacement. Discharging pent-up feelings, usually of hostility, on objects less dangerous than those that initially aroused the emotion.
Examples of Rationalization (taken from an Instructor’s Manual for Intro Psych, but I forget which book):
- After Carla rejected him, Phil told his friends that he didn’t think she was very attractive and interesting, and that he really wasn’t all that crazy about her.
- Jack told his parents that he got a C in his psychology course because all the As and Bs went to students who cheated on tests and had professionals write their papers.
- Bill said that the reason he flunked out of college was because of the poor quality of teaching there.
Examples of Reaction Formation:
- George feels that his younger son, Gary, is unattractive and not very smart. He accuses his wife of picking on Gary and favoring their other son.
- Lucy dresses in provocative clothes and uses suggestive language although she fears that she is unattractive and she really isn’t very interested in sex.
- John has a lot of unconscious hostility toward his father but he acts very affectionate toward him and tells other people that he and his father have a wonderful relationship.
Examples of Regression:
- After Sue Ann’s baby brother was born, she began to talk baby-talk and suck her thumb.
- Mary was homesick and anxious when she moved into the dormitory and started her first year in college. She began to sleep with her favorite teddy bear again.
Examples of Denial
- Sixteen-year-old Tom had started using drugs, and the changes in his behavior made it pretty obvious, but Tom’s parents didn’t believe the school principal when she called to talk with them about the problem.
- Bill, who is 50 years old wears clothes that you would see on teenagers and drives a sports car. He can’t see that he doesn’t look 30, or even 40, anymore.
- Shakespeare: “The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.”
- From Academic Earth: This lecture introduces students to the theories of Sigmund Freud, including a brief biographical description and his contributions to the field of psychology. The limitations of his theories of psychoanalysis are covered in detail, as well as the ways in which his conception of the unconscious mind still operate in mainstream psychology today.